‘[David Beckham] is just another grubby chancer who uses charity work as a pole-vault for his own status and enrichment,’ wrote Jan Moir in The Daily Mail today. She is referring, of course, to the recent scandal to have hit the Beckhams – the hacking of David Beckham’s inbox by expose website ‘Football Leaks’ and the publication of his emails by The Sun, which revealed an apparent dogged determination to secure a knighthood.
Whilst Beckham claims the emails – which were amongst 18.6million documents to have been hacked from the server of sports and entertainment agency, Doyen Global, in 2015 – had been ‘hacked and doctored’, what they report he had written was pretty damning...
For instance, when Katherine Jenkins was awarded an OBE in 2014 – the same honour currently held by Beckham – he allegedly wrote to Doyen Global founder, Simon Oliveira, saying: ‘Katherine Jenkins OBE for what? Singing at the rugby and going to see the troops plus taking coke. F---ing joke.’
On the subject of being denied a knighthood, the leaks suggest Beckham had claimed about the Honours Committee: ‘They r a bunch of c----s. I expected nothing less. Who decides on the honors [sic]?? It’s a disgrace to be honest and if I was American I would have got something like this 10 years ago.’
His emails also revealed a somewhat uncharitable approach to his charity work; when asked to match the highest bidders at a UNICEF charity auction, Beckham is thought to have responded: ‘I don’t want to put my personal money into this cause.’
He also reportedly said: ‘To pour this million into the fund, is like putting my own money in. If there was no fund, the money would be for me. This f------ money is mine.’
Yes, the emails don’t paint the retired footballer in the best of lights. But so what? Does that mean you and I are entitled to read them?
It’s a tricky thing, ‘public interest’. Are the British public interested in the juicy revelations that one of their most beloved sportsmen is desperate to become a ‘sir’, and that in spite of all his millions, seems to take a stingy approach to charity (even though the one in question has helped raised his ‘National Treasure’ status something silly)? Yes, it’s quite interesting. Is it our ‘right’ to know? In my mind, that can be answered in one question: has he done anything illegal?
No. So technically, it’s none of our business.
Who is really the ‘wrong party’ here? Beckham for writing, Football Leaks for hacking, or the tabloids for publishing?
Can a celebrity have a frank conversation with their PR manager on email? Yes. Can a team of hackers hack into an email server and publish its findings? From what I’ve read, the law is a bit fuzzy here. It seems it’s illegal, but Beckham’s emails were hacked from Portugal, so apparently that makes it not a UK jurisdictional issue… Is it ‘OK’ for hackers to hack, if what they reveal is of public interest? Again, I think legally, no. Morally, however... that’s up to the greater good to decide. Either way, can tabloids publish information already in the public domain? Unless an injunction’s slapped on the info, yes.
Looking at this particular case, I think the hackers are wrong. Because if Football Leaks had gotten wind of a particular story – fraud, say – it could be argued that exposing it would be the right thing to do. After all, Football Leaks where behind the revelation that sports stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho allegedly avoided tax by packing off vast sums of their earnings to the sunny shores of the British Virgin Islands. Tax evasion is a crime.
This instance, however, is different. I wouldn’t call the release of 18.6 million documents a ‘targeted hack’ on suspected illegal activity. By releasing so many, it appears the hackers weren’t looking for anything specific, they were just looking for anything...
And they found it: David Beckham wants to be a sir and seemingly doesn’t like giving his own money to charity.
In the broad scheme of things, does this matter? Not to me.
To get to where Beckham got in his career – let’s remind ourselves, ‘Captain of England’s football team’, a childhood dream for millions – requires one thing if nothing else: competitiveness. Competitiveness beyond even natural talent, because it’s that drive that makes great sportsmen great; talent alone is not enough. So it’s not ‘news’ to learn that David Beckham is a bloody competitive person, and even though he’s no longer a footballer, it seems unlikely he would lose this competitive edge. With that in mind, it’s not illogical to see getting a knighthood as the next goal in Beckham’s career; and if anyone knows anything about scoring goals, surely it’s Beckham...
What about his brattish approach to charity? The emails also revealed he demanded £6,685 from UNICEF for a business class flight to an event, even though sponsors of the charity had already forked out for him to fly on a private jet. Yes, this shows him to be spoiled and demanding. Yes, it makes him a hypocrite. But it doesn’t undo everything he has done for UNICEF.
May I also point out, I can’t actually find the emails he wrote. I have no idea what their context is, I’m only going on what The Sun has published. Who knows what was or wasn’t omitted...
‘This f------- money is mine (JOKE!)’
How would that change things?
I love the Beckhams. I like that they present themselves as a hard-working family with good values – because I think that’s what they are. I don’t care if David Beckham was jealous of Katherine Jenkins for getting the same honour as him. It might have been despicable what he called the Honours Committee, but that was in PRIVATE. If any of us were denied a promotion, say, after what we deemed was years of hard work, might we describe our bosses in unsavoury terms to a trusted friend? Might we also expect to keep such a conversation behind closed doors?
Beckileaks has shown us that our personal emails – the form of communication many of us use daily – is not only not secure but it doesn’t appear to be sufficiently protected by law. It might illegal for someone to hack into our Outlook Accounts and publish, but never mind, if the papers report it, it’s in the ‘public interest’, and so who cares if our lives are ruined as a result of a moment’s private hot-headedness?
We should care.
Because if we don’t, we’re agreeing to that level of intrusion. And a world where our emails, our WhatsApp messages, our texts, our Facebook posts, our every method of online communication can be made open for public consumption... what a sad and terrifying world to live in that is.